How my hair impacts how I take care of my daughter hair.

by Lian OkolieJan 25th, 2020

How my hair impacts how I take care of my daughter hair.

Inspired by the post. This track speaks to my memories of the my high school days which I discuss in this post

The other day after reading my post "A New Beginning” my husband asked me a great question. “How did my hair impact how I took care of my daughters’ hair?”

Hmmm… good question. How did my 4b/4c hair impact the way I took care of my kids’ 3b hair? “Let me think about that…. Still thinking… You know what I’ll get back to you”.

I was stumped for a bit but then I realised it was actually quite simple. Having afro hair myself, though it was relaxed, I knew the importance of hair care. For me it’s all about Moisturising, combing/detangling, protective styles at night so you’re not combing the hair of a screaming child the next day (though most times that can’t be helped but at least you minimise the pain). When they were babies I just did what I saw done in my family with my younger cousins (which was also what I did with my first child who has type 4b hair) oil and comb/brush morning and night (after bathtime) which garnered funny looks from my white in-laws. One thought my kids had type 3 hair because I oiled it so much.

I remember overhearing my in-law speak to her cousin about my daughters’ hair. Cousin “Their hair is so soft” in- law “Yeah, she puts oil in it every day”. A bit of back story, they are both white with mixed race kids who have type 4c hair that they often have a hard time dealing with. I’ve seen the kids on numerous occasions with uncombed unkempt hair. It got to a point where I had to start cornrowing my niece’s hair because I couldn’t take it anymore. I also tried buying hair care products and letting my niece and her mum know how to use them. I have tried to give advice about hair products to said in-law but she wasn’t having it. I can’t really blame her, I was walking around with relaxed hair, so maybe she thought I didn’t know what I was talking about.

After that I didn’t know how to talk to my in-law about her daughter’s hair because, that’s not my child and I already knew she wasn’t interested. She ended up cutting all her hair of. It was a shame as it was so long. But maybe it was for the best.

That brings up an interesting topic of discussion. Does being a black person with or without natural hair give you the right to school, teach or better yet correct someone of another race who doesn’t seem to understand the process of caring for afro hair? And does having natural hair make you more of an authority on the topic than someone with relaxed hair? I’ve seen tv shows such as ‘This is us’ touch on this issue and the black lady in question didn’t hold back in voicing her opinion. Could this be:

  1. The black version of the ‘White saviour complex’ the ‘Black hair saviour complex’?
  2. Or is it that we knowingly or unknowingly have a certain kind of pride about hair-ritage and hate to see it in disarray
  3. Maybe it’s that we know how certain people perceive our skin and therefore our hair and we don’t want to give them the opportunity to affirm their assumptions.
  4. Or it could be that it has nothing to do with the hair and we just hate to see people looking tatty/shabby

I’m not sure but 1 thing I do know is I can get quite sensitive about my hair and comments like “Oh your hairs so cute” irritate the hell out of me when it comes from someone of a different culture. And if you ain’t family please DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR!

The hair of an angry black woman

A few years back I was with my husband who is white (he was my boyfriend at the time), his sister and her boyfriend and for some reason the topic turned to my straightened hair. They were discussing my hair like they understood It, I felt insulted and angry about that for some reason and withdrew from the conversation. “What do you know about relaxed hair? What do you know about my reasons for doing it?” What, are you thinking that I want to be white? Do you think I’m ashamed of who I am. What do you know about my hair? How dare you discuss my hair? Mind your business.

I’m not quite sure why I felt that way, but those feelings bubbled to the surface as I remained tight lipped glaring at them all as they continued their discussion oblivious to my feelings about it. Why didn’t I speak up? Did I feel they were right? Of course not. I love who I am, I love being black so why did I have those feelings and why couldn’t I tell them? Maybe I just didn’t want the drama which is surprising (no I don’t love drama but I don’t usually shy away from speaking my mind).

I know they didn’t realise what they were doing and all those thoughts going through my mind were just that, my thoughts or my perception of their thoughts. But can you blame me. Maybe it has something to do with What certain people see when they see Afro hair whether it be relaxed or natural ... The hair of an angry black woman, the hair of a criminal, the hair of someone who is below me, the hair of someone who has no right to live in the same area as me, the hair of someone who can never be my boss, to some even, the hair of someone who has no right to live.

There are people who have natural hair but do not showcase it. They prefer to hide behind wigs and weaves, why is that? Could they be covering up to distract from these ill-conceived misconceptions? Possibly, but it could also just be a matter of preference, lack of time or maybe their hair type requires protective styles. Everyone has their own individual reasons for doing what they do. We are so diverse it would be crazy to think that we all have the same reasons for the decisions we make. Which by the way, is why you can’t judge an entire race by the actions of one person and NO ONE PERSON IS THE VOICE OF AN ENTIRE RACE. But alas, that is a topic for another day.

Growing up my mother always made sure I got my hair done regularly whether braids or cornrows, whatever. Then I remember a time when I was about 11/12 something changed and it was like she expected me to be able to take care of my hair myself. I had combs, brushes, products etc but I was fending for myself now, I remember I was in secondary school at the time. I was a bit of a tomboy so taking care of my hair wasn’t high on my list of priorities so at first I ‘phoned it in’. I didn’t really care, I would brush it, pack it in a ponytail and that was that. I wasn’t worried about edges or trying anything different. I’ve brushed it, moisturised it, I’m done.

Then one day it was picture day at school and I had just packed my hair as normal and a friend of mine said “you’ve always got this ponytail, why don’t you try something different?” And she did my hair. She gave me a ponytail with some form of a quiff and it was soo cute. From that day on I was hooked on trying different things and enjoying what my hair could do. Looking back I realise that anyone who looked like me always either had their hair in braids, cornrows, ponytail or bunches. There were also some curly perms and relaxed hair. Either way the hair was always neat. That was just the way it was even though I didn’t think much of it at the time. Subconsciously, that was a part of my upbringing and played a big role in how I treat my hair.

So to answer my husband’s question. My personal hair journey, ie. my upbringing and my culture shaped me into someone who understands the importance of haircare. Knowing that my children would often scream blue murder whilst I’m doing their hair (so it could take a significant amount of time) is something I would just have to deal with and prepare for. Because having my girls leave the house with their hair in a mess, is a definite no no. My journey has also enabled me to enjoy experimenting with various hairstyles, something my 2nd daughter has termed ‘pretty hair’ (a blanket term for any hairstyle I do for her or her sister). And when it’s their turn to start taking care of their hair they’ll know exactly what to do. And will, hopefully, continue to experiment with styles and see the beauty in their hair.

After writing this piece, I started to examine the feelings I had during certain incidents and why I felt them. I would like to look at and sometimes challenge the decisions we make as black people and as individuals to get to the root of or help each other get to the root of why we do what we do. Is it habit, what we saw our parents/family do, what we feel we are expected to do or maybe even as rebellion (because someone said we shouldn’t).

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